I have no idea how or even when I registered for the webinar yesterday but I am so glad I did. You put together a well-informed panel of leaders and I wanted to congratulate you on having a successful event.

That was a dart to my heart and I’m thrilled that I was able to participate. I’ve admired the careers of several of the panelists and everyone provided *real* value.

I always enjoy hearing from and seeing you on webinars, including tonight’s on the Building a Strong Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Foundation Webinar!

Feedback like this is what motivates our team to host free, quarterly DEI community-building panel discussions. Last week’s panel, Building a Strong DEI Foundation, included a Who’s Who of tenured practitioners in the DEI space. Casey Tonnelly, our moderator, has over 15 years of experience as a leadership development coach, anti-racism educator, and DEI strategist. Casey was joined by the brilliant Monica Davy who serves as the Chief Culture, Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Vizient, the nation’s leading healthcare performance improvement company with 4,000 employees in 20 metropolitan areas across the United States. In addition to being a passionate community-builder, Sarah Hassaine is the Global Director of Diversity at ResMed, a global Medtech company based in San Diego. The panel was rounded out by the gifted MyMy Lu, Director of Diversity & Inclusion for Thermo Fisher Scientific, a world leader in serving science with a global team of 80,000 colleagues.

You can view the replay of the panel discussion below. Meanwhile, here are a few key takeaways from this thought-provoking and powerful discussion.

Q: Share with us your biggest flex about something that you helped to accomplish with DEI in 2021.

Monica Davy: As you may recall, last March was a time when an anti-Asian movement was growing in the United States. So, we kicked off a series of monthly enterprise-wide conversations where we tackled difficult topics around diversity, equity, and inclusion. In March, we addressed the anti-Asian movement. In April, we had a conversation about neurodiversity. In May, my CEO sat down with me for a conversation about systemic racism. We included follow-up resources that team members could use to dive deeper into the topics. Those monthly conversations have been very helpful, and we are continuing to hold those and refine them in 2022.

Sarah Hassaine: I started in my position at ResMed 14 months ago and walked into a company that didn’t have diversity and inclusion practice. So, I began with a discovery tour to learn what the words diversity and inclusion meant to the senior leaders to mid-level managers across the organization. We discussed both what D&I meant at ResMed at the time and where it could evolve. Also, the company had four ERG’s (employee resource groups) when I joined, and we’ve since grown those to ten. Like Monica mentioned, having ongoing conversations around these subjects helps galvanize people, build community that drives engagement, and helps the company speak to real world issues as they arise. I’m really proud that, although we were fully remote in 2021, 6,000 ResMedians engaged.

MyMy Lu: When I walked into my position 7 months ago, Thermo Fisher already had 240 ERG chapters around the world. While it’s important that the people in those groups had a safe space to build community and belonging, the biggest flex for me last year was to be able to help align business strategies and initiatives that would make a difference to the ERG communities. We know our colleagues want to see progress, and I’m pleased that we’re actively working to make that happen.

Q: In January, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that a record 4.5 million Americans voluntarily left their jobs in November. That means there were 1.5 available jobs for each unemployed person, the most on record dating back two decades. My question is, how has having a dedicated DEI program helped your organization respond to the workforce gulf caused by the Great Resignation?

Sarah Hassaine: The Great Resignation is one way to look at it. The Great Talent Swap is another. That’s how we framed it at ResMed which helped us consider how we could leverage our competitive advantage for talent. We learned that candidates were asking broader questions around culture, diversity & inclusion, and how they’re going to feel when they join our team. We were able to partner with our Talent Acquisition team to be more intentional about promoting our D&I efforts. I provided toolkits for our recruiters and hiring managers with talking points about how to focus on our inclusive culture and improve the candidate experience.

MyMy Lu: I loved Sarah’s point about needing to be more intentional about both our existing and incoming talent. Thermo Fisher created an intentional, multi-pronged strategy. One was targeted diversity recruiting with HBCU’s and the launch of the JUST Project where we committed to hiring at least 500 alumni from HBCU’s through 2023. For our existing colleague population, we created mentorship and networking programs to address their professional development needs. We also improved the onboarding process in partnership with our ERG’s to drive inclusion right out of the gate, and focused on what belonging needs that some of our population had. For example, last year was both the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Our Veteran’s ERG actively worked to support our veteran colleagues by hosting an event simply titled, “Your Service Matters” to create a space for anyone who wanted to come to share their experience and know that they were not alone.

Monica Davy: One of the things that we’ve done at Vizient is to couple diversity and inclusion with culture. My title is Chief Culture, Diversity and Inclusion Officer, because the leaders understood when they created the position that the two must be inextricably linked to be truly effective. If you ask anyone in our company what our values are, no one will hesitate to answer: Be Bold, Be Accountable, Be Inclusive, and Be Purposeful. We live our values every day. They inform how we hold meetings, how we make decisions, and how we recruit and retain talent. I would also say that The Great Resignation has not significantly impacted our attrition rate, and I believe that our culture of living our values contributed to that.

Q: What would you say are one or two areas that we are falling short in the Inclusion & Belonging work and what would you recommend CEOs and DEI leaders consider to make continued advancements? 

Sarah Hassaine: All of today’s panelists represent organizations in the health space. We have the opportunity to not only live our values – like Monica mentioned – internally, but to show our values in action in the marketplace to champion health equity. We have the opportunity to take advantage of the many lenses of D&I such as our branding component, the language used in our marketing collateral, and the accessibility of our content. We need to be asking ourselves every week, “What are we missing?” and “Are we inclusive enough?” It’s really having a holistic approach and incorporating D&I into all of its many lenses.

MyMy Lu: I want to touch on the prioritization of DEI. This work is heavy, and the potential impact can be great. To be truly effective, CEO’s need to show that they prioritize the work by creating a budget and building a dedicated team. The companies that have figured it out have really taken it on themselves to integrate D&I into every aspect of the business. I always say that if I can get this right, I would be working my way out of a job. There would be no need for a diversity and inclusion team because it would be evident in the organizational DNA.

Monica Davy: I agree with MyMy and Sarah. As Sarah pointed out, we are all in the health space and have an opportunity to make meaningful improvements in health equity. DEI should be so much more than internal metrics of who we attract, hire, and retain. But, depending on where your organization is in the maturity model, you must lay the foundation first and get it right internally before applying it more broadly.

Q: Are you seeing any trends in DEI? And what predictions would you make for the future direction of the work? 

Monica Davy: I think our external, societal, polarized climate is making this work much more difficult. Identifying DEI work as divisive has been commonplace in the political and external debate. This reaction is permeating into the workplace and we are getting more open resistance. Concepts like bias, or privilege, or systemic racism – that we believe are either scientific, or factual, or not debatable – are now up for debate. If we had resisters in our companies before who weren’t fully on board with what we were doing, we’re now seeing them more openly resisting. Five, six, even seven years ago, I was talking much more about how to create inclusive environments without the need to defend whether something happened in history. I’m hoping that it will get better, but I sit patiently and wait.

MyMy Lu: Sarah and I are nodding our heads, Monica. We’ve definitely seen a difference, but I have a little more optimism on this subject. I feel like more courageous conversations are being driven. As a part of the celebration of Black History Month, for example, one of our white, male leaders wanted to put up a Black Lives Matter flag to show support. When we spoke about it, I asked him if he’d taken the time to have conversations about what the movement meant. If not, his well-intentioned gesture could trigger unhealthy reactions that will not drive progress. This goes back to the maturity model that Monica talked about. We may not be ready to raise a flag and assume that it means the same thing to everyone who sees it, but we have the opportunity to talk about its meaning.

Sarah Hassaine: I agree with both Monica and MyMy. I also want to touch on the growing mental health issues, what a hybrid working model looks like, and the effect proximity will have on our workforce. We want to make sure that people feel included regardless of where they physically do their work. We don’t truly know how it’s going to play out, but it’s important to build inclusion into these conversations now so that we’re not dealing with unintentional damage later.

If you are a leader or practitioner in the DEI space, you know that it is filled with amazing, transparent, generous, passionate people like these esteemed panelists. We are incredibly honored to share our platform to continue to take part in the conversation and growth of this community. Watch this space for more amazing panel discussions and our 2022 DEI training program to help you put these concepts into practice.

Watch the recording of this panel discussion:

Question: Where is your organization on the diversity and inclusion maturity model and what initiatives do you need to get right this year to keep moving forward?

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